Using text and images, moving spikily across the page and across ideas in ever-expanding loops, Make Yourself Happy is devoted to one of the oldest and most important human questions: how to live. Humanity, happiness, and the survival of the biosphere spin each section forward, species are wiped out, yet the poem endures.
Eleni Sikelianos is the author of six books of poetry, most recently The Loving Detail of the Living and the Dead and The California Poem, which was a Barnes & Noble Best of the Year, as well as hybrid memoirs, The Book of Jon and You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek). Sikelianos teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver. A California native, longtime New Yorker, and world traveler, she now lives in Boulder with her husband, the novelist Laird Hunt, and their daughter, Eva Grace.
“In her latest collection, Sikelianos… employs her joy-demanding title as more than a refrain, cleverly letting it unfold as a humanist battle cry amid the earth’s downfall.” —Publishers Weekly
“The book’s purpose is not to suggest that language muddies things up permanently; instead, language in Sikelianos’s hands has a fluid quality to it; it has a round-about-ing quality. There is pleasure—and an increased appreciation of the strangeness of words and the power of words—when a reader goes with both the swirl and the forward movement of the river Sikelianos creates.” —Numero Cinq
“Slowly but surely… Sikelianos unravels the whole notion of happiness.”—Vertigo
“Haunted by the 20th century’s dismal record of global species extinction and an uncertain world-historical future ahead, this book uncovers new forms of resistance to apathy and despair through a return to the etymological root of “poet” as “maker.” Whether Sikelianos is writing about making a paper globe, making a family, making a statement, or making yourself, she surveys the field of human endeavors to find new prospects for care amid precarious political contexts.”—BOMB Magazine
“In [Eleni’s] most recent book, Make Yourself Happy, lines lengthen and collapse; drawings and photographs punctuate each spiraling section; and pages ask to be cut out, folded, and reborn in three dimensions. Yes, this book will make you happy—it will also make you invigorated, curious, thoughtful, and astonished.”—The Ribbon, interview
“This is a book about living (and dead) things which exists at the very edge of speechlessness—its direct, blank prose, particularly in the first section, harnesses the colloquial beside the barren, does not spring as singularly from the author’s innate sense of the celebratory and awestruck as in other collections, but Sikelianos’ voice is unmistakable, and her poetic continuance of the observant, the ethical, and the oracular awake is in vital presence. This book is full of insistence to action, looking and education; in truth, the author feels herself most aligned to the near-extinct beast on the asphalt block—and why wouldn’t she? Her co-empathy is truth.”—EOAGH
“The poems themselves are often mysteries, providing only the outline of a thought, a reading experince akin to peering through a steamy window; other times, they sing and dance in the sunshine… Ambitious, powerful, and well produced; for all sophisticated poetry readers.”—Library Journal
“In Make Yourself Happy, Eleni Sikelianos evinces a neuro-psychological state counter to the miswrought biology that has haunted the Occident since the dawn of Roman times. These poems open the neurology to its whole participation in the psycho-physical field and are not unlike the seminal amplification of indigenous culture, where the language of the body simultaneously circulates with living metastates. These poems organically form as environmental respiration that only the poet can approach in the latter days of this techno-hypercritical epoch.” —Will Alexander
“This poem is addressed to you. You want to be happy, don’t you? In deceptively simple sentences, it tells you how to ‘make yourself happy.’ You might aspirate on honey, for instance. Play connect the dots and the extinct animals pop out. Did you kill them all to make yourself happy? Here you will bask in the syllabic glow of the ‘shirred / aggregates / mineral iridium / irresidue.’ This book is your invitation to the post-human pool party of the future.” —Rae Armantrout
“With her native Greek wisdom and her American exuberance, Eleni takes us into the different layers which make our daily lives, perceptions, thoughts . . . as they take form, and thanks to her become an initiatique, even archeological, journey. Besides the pleasure we feel, we see here a moral endeavor, an invitation to make ourselves happy. Her journey finds its energy in her perfect ear for language and immense generosity of heart. Her openness lets in the sinuosities and cracks of what we may well end up calling ‘being,’ in her great project of telling us, in these worst moments of actual history, to be (urgently) happy because we are . . . happy. And let me share at least one epiphany: ‘to graze in / winter in snow- / free meadows.’” —Etel Adnan